Statoil employs 20,500 people in more than 30 countries around the world. Sophie Peacock speaks to Ana Prata Fonseca Nordang, vice-president for executive and leadership development, to discuss how the offshore operator has created an efficient performance culture during a difficult time for the oil industry.
Houston-based consultant Graves & Co estimated that by February last year, more than 440,000 jobs had been lost in
the ongoing downturn in the global oil and gas sector. Statoil’s focus on employee growth has kept the Norwegian company afloat in the challenging conditions that have dominated since 2014.
As the world’s economy emerges from recession, Statoil is paying up to $2.9 billion for a stake in one of Brazil’s biggest oilfields as it strengthens its partnership with fellow state-controlled operator Petrobras.
Encouraging staff is an important goal for any company, but this often requires exceeding competitors’ logistical capabilities.
Future-proofing in an unpredictable industry means maintaining end-to-end communication and a clear focus. Attention to technological detail is spelling success for Statoil and its employment goals.
According to Ana Prata Fonseca Nordang, vice-president for executive and leadership, Statoil has a core strategic objective for performance management that champions the potential of every employee.
"First and foremost, the company wants to enable the best performance from its employees in terms of role development and growth," says Nordang. "It is very important that one of the outcomes of performance management is staff development."
The culture of ambition and setting achievable goals for personnel drives performance at Statoil, and is underpinned by data collection.
"Like many other companies, Statoil has a global people survey; this is an annual review where it assesses the engagement of its people," Nordang explains. "Shaping engagement and motivation means having a finger on the pulse of an organisation and understanding how connected employees feel to its overall strategies."
Handbook for success
Drawing upon the ideas presented by this survey, Statoil maintains a well-structured and attractive employee value proposition originally derived from a ‘handbook’ that encompasses the company’s goals for the organisation as a whole and the development of the individuals within it.
"The employment strategy proposition is anchored by some key elements, one of which is a book that helps Statoil review how it is run and how it operates," says Nordang. "It’s a part of the company DNA and clearly outlines the organisational principles of the business, its leadership frameworks and core values – being caring, collaborative, open and courageous."
Not only does this ethos pervade the company’s collective consciousness but Nordang argues that it also permeates Statoil’s dealings with associate firms and customers.
"You could talk to a lot of people who have worked with Statoil, or partnered with it, and I think they would say that it is a strongly values-based company, and that those values are upheld in everything it does," she says.
A significant way in which Statoil prioritises these values is through
the investments it makes in staff development. "Although it’s been a challenging time for the oil and gas industry, Statoil has actually increased its expenditure on people and development," Nordang explains.
"This significantly strengthened its learning and development strategy and established connections with a number of universities. It created a target, a KPI at a very high quote level, to encourage and to facilitate investments in development."
Goals for Statoil employees are not solely around hitting targets, they also depend on staff members building broad, tailored careers that enable them to grow and thrive, while highlighting the connecting roles that build the infrastructure of any successful business.
"Statoil encourages employees to take risks, to move across the business and to move across functions so that they can continue to develop their skills, confidence and experiences," says Nordang.
But with a high output of skilled, experienced staff members, how should energy companies effectively pinpoint the best of the best, or target and nurture potential leaders?
Statoil has an extremely rigorous power identification process running annually at every level of leadership.
Starting at the lowest levels of the organisation, the process is applied all the way up to the C-suite in order to identify talent and leadership. It also enables conversations about employees’ development and what their futures may hold.
"Over the past couple of years, Statoil has put in place a pretty robust leadership assessment framework that is run internally – and externally with certain partners – to better train and develop leaders," Nordang says.
"As a result, the company is able to gauge what the development needs are in order to implement a focused development programme for team leaders and selected talent. This can involve anything from participating in leadership academies and training programmes, to on-the-job learning or coaching, and international deployment."
Statoil’s ethos of ‘turning threats into opportunities’ is reflected in its strategies for employee development. Although attracting new talent to an industry in trouble is challenging, the Norwegian operator has been able to nurture talent.
While the industry around it has generally been downsizing, Nordang believes Statoil has been able to manage the development of its workforce successfully.
"Statoil has a very strong brand, particularly in Norway, and also in some of its key international locations," she says. "Even during the downturn, its values, and focus on innovation and technology have been assets in terms of attracting talent."
Like many other oil and energy companies, Statoil feels the push to concentrate on the long term, and make the sector attractive for millennials and the subsequent generations. It has already planned for this by analysing how technology can be put to best use.
"Statoil has evolved in terms of how it structures the work it does and how it organises itself," says Nordang. "It has created much more fluid organisational and resource models so that it can be increasingly flexible in terms of where and how the work gets done."
By keeping a firm eye on the future, prioritising new technology and those who use it, Statoil aims to keep a step ahead of industry trends and support the working lifestyle of the sector’s future generations. Employees can work most efficiently when the most mundane, time-consuming tasks can be automated.
"Statoil continuously looks for ways to simplify the work that it does," says Nordang. "It is committed to investment that drives automation across the organisation. In terms of simplification, it’s critical to use technology and to digitalise how you work."
Nordang believes that in order to attract the next generation of workers, Statoil must realise that millennials operate very differently in the workplace and adapt how it communicates internally and externally. "Statoil is considering how it can use social media for attraction activities and campus recruitment, and so on," she says.
Statoil’s strategy is to appeal to the millennial work ethic and to ensure that careers are continually developed.
Nordang believes the fundamentals of employee propositions resonate with millennials, and the focus is on creating a meaningful work environment for them. Young people, she believes, no longer wish to commit to organisations for life; they want to work in an environment that provides a clear purpose and regular feedback.
Looking to the future, she wants to see a workplace in which concern for employee growth is genuine and bespoke, rather than just an obligation.
"These are all important points for Statoil, where enhanced performance management will create a culture that revolves around ‘in the moment’ feedback, where providing ongoing assessment is a natural part of the workplace, and not merely a formal, predetermined process."